The Monster and the Girl – Hiding Prostitution
A man is convicted for a crime he didn’t commit, and submits to an experiment to have his mind put into the body of an ape, which is all part of a trip into the weird and the unusual. Paramount studios made and distributed The Monster and the Girl in 1941, but tried to make it without any direct view of the horror and the macabre, which is about as difficult as it gets in this kind of movie. It is really a movie about a woman forced into prostitution and a man who wants to kill to free her, but this theme is hidden and almost stamped out by the censors. It’s still there though, if you look hard enough.
The movie begins with a trial, a la Perry Mason. It is classically shot in the same way. Scott is on trial for the murder of a powerful mob boss, and he tells his story on the stand, explaining how he was framed. Of course, no one believes him and he is ridiculed. A woman named Susan rushes forward to claim that Scott was only protecting her, and she is put on the stand.
Susan is sworn in and tells her story. She explains how she met and married a man named Larry. She explains how she woke up the day after her wedding and found Larry gone. A man was there in her place, a member of the mob, who forced her to join them to avoid a scandal. What happened to Larry? Where’d he go? Who is this new guy? Was he a mob criminal used to recruit women into prostitution? This is alluded to in the court scene, but never mentioned or discussed outright. This is one of the most obvious examples I’ve seen of controversial topics used in the production code era. The result is obvious and the “code” ruins the movie, considering its low-budget.
This movie is loaded with a mass of B-Movie character actors. Susan is played by Ellen Drew, who was a B-movie mainstay. Her brother Scott is played by Phillip Terry, who starred in The Leech Woman (1960) and many other B-Movies. There are many other recognizable faces in this movie, including George Zucco, whose biggest role was The Mummy’s Tomb in 1942.
Any dramatic moment between Scott and Susan is lost because of the censors. Scott was only trying to protect Susan because she is his sister, and was hunting for Larry when they framed him. The dramatic elements are wasted, because the dialogue can’t touch on anything we really want to hear about, like the crime. Without the desperate plight of Susan or the mention of prostitution, the story is just a monster movie. Such a waste, because I can see where it could be a great revenge thriller with social commentary.
The rest of the movie shows an ape hunting down the mob responsible for framing Scott. No one knows that it is really Scott’s brain inside the monster, and that he volunteered for the experiment rather than go to the electric chair. This is strange, to say the least.
In the end, Scott-Ape is able to free Susan from the mob by murdering the thugs. Too bad he’s gunned down in the process. Unfortunately, this movie has the makings of a good one, but it can’t rise beyond the mediocre, because it is weighed down by the censors and the studio. The film-makers disguise abuse, crime, and prostitution in a clever way, alluding to bigger things but never fully committing to them. The censors never really allow us to hear about the real themes of this movie, although the director was smart enough to hide them, for intelligent audiences to find and enjoy.
This movie was released as a double-feature with The Mad Doctor, which is a really crap movie that Basil Rathbone did trying to escape Sherlock Holmes. The Monster and the Girl is buried as the second feature, and the second feature of a midnight showing no less, proving that the censors can even squash a silly gorilla movie.